Stephen Romano Gallery in Brooklyn and WᛉRD WAR Gallery in Portland Oregon, are pleased to announce their first collaboration, an exhibition of the vintage photography of William Mortensen, accompanied by a selection of contemporary photographic artists whom have felt the impact of Mortensen's works in their own art.
The exhibition features the works of the following artist
William Mortensen (1897 -1965)
Lorena Torres Martell
Brittany Rose Luciani
with a selections of vintage occult lobby cards and film stills, spirit photography and other ephemera.
The exhibition, organized by a champion of the esoteric, curator, collector and private art dealer Stephen Romano of Brooklyn NY, -- centers on the works of American photographic artist William Mortensen (1897 - 1965) who worked in Hollywood in the 1920's and made some of the most evocative esoteric and occult images in history. The exhibition also features four contemporary artists who perpetuate Mortensen's legacy by using aspects of his aesthetic formulas, as well as his love of brazenly self empowering occult and sexualized imagery.
All of the works by the contemporary artists in this exhibition were made specifically for this show, and have never been exhibited before..
Stephen Romano states: "As a collector, I have custodianship of one of the largest and most in depth collection of William Mortensen's art. This exhibition stands in part and in contrast, to a current museum exhibition of William Mortensen's works, whose curatorial efforts have attempted to mediocritize Mortensen's legacy, and downplay the importance of his occult imagery. To the contrary, it is my firm and unwavering belief that Mortensen was among the great visionaries of the past century, and his influence continues to reverberate among yet another generation of artists..
Wyrd War, whose exceptional program is aligned with generosity of spirit and helping to bring awareness to art that challenges mediocrity and complacency, brings a broad enrichment of awareness, and is a well suited collaborator for such a tribute to William Mortensen"
Dennis Dread, Owner of Wyrd War Gallery says: "It is no surprise then that from the golden dawn of Hollywood, that wicked cauldron of contemporary Western imagination, emerged the preeminent master conjurer William Mortensen (1897-1965) wielding only a camera as his magician’s wand. Thebewildering shadow cast by America’s controversial and eventually exiled “anti-Christ” of the aperturehas proven to be a profound and enchanting force that has influenced generations of image makerssince his death nearly sixty years ago. "WITCH’S EYE: THE CAMERA LENS AS OCCULT DEVICE is a bold celebration of WILLIAM MORTENSEN’S ART AND LEGACY. All of the artists featured in this exhibition, which has been beautifully curated by Stephen Romano, honor Mortensen’s memory, archetypes, obsessions, techniques and craftsmanship. This season of the witch, Wyrd War Gallery proudly welcomes all to come…come…Come to the Sabbat!"
Romano continues: "It is the most noble aspiration on behalf of the artist to go against the hegemony, and to take on the role of oracle, witch and shaman, to be a healing force in the culture, and through their works, give the viewers
affirmations of a greater quality of life experience.
Mortensen, in his time, created works that opened the senses to a higher realm of perception through his masterful techniques, many of which he created himself, and through his visionary outlook to change the world through his
It is the very rare artist who can forge the two attributes together, and through the execution of the work, create a sublime and enlightening experience. Mortensen's art--in particular his use of occult imagery--has inspired many by his usage of the visceral and controversial subject matters of witchcraft and the occult.
The persecution of practitioners of witchcraft is aligned with the persecution and suppression of women's freedoms. Mortensen, contrary to how history has relegated him to being a "kitsch" photographer, was a strong advocate for female self-empowerment and sexual freedom.
This was in a time where such notions were highly challenged by an emerging evangelical right in the 1920's. They controlled the film industry's narratives shortly after Mortensen's time in Hollywood with "The Motion Picture Production Code (Hay's Code)"; instituted officially in 1934. This code spelled out acceptable and unacceptable content for motion pictures, purportedly in the interest of decency, written by a Presbyterian elder, a postmaster general, and the head of the Republican National Committee.
That Mortensen's art flourished in this time, while receiving very little critical or peer recognition, is nothing short of a miracle, and evidence of the artist's tenacious convictions and dedication to his art, which is overtly inherent in the integrity of the images included in this exhibition."
The artists in the exhibition include:
"Everything exists through its opposite. For pictures of calm and tranquil beauty to have any meaning, even for “sweet” pictures to have any meaning, it is necessary that the grotesque and the distorted exist. Perfection of form is significant only because the malforms exist also. Those who turn away from the grotesque are losing the richness and completeness of artistic experience..
A very fruitful field for grotesque art is afforded by the manifestations of witchcraft and demonology. Fear, secrecy, and converse with evil powers, were characteristic elements of this mysterious cult, which is as old as man. These elements are of the very substance of the grotesque. The early wood engravers did much with themes derived from witchcraft. Brueghel has worked with this material; so also has Goya; but little has been done with it by photographers. Over-consciousness of the literal limitations of their medium has perhaps held some back from entering this unrealistic and imaginative field. But this very quality of unrealism should be a challenge to a photographer who wishes to pass beyond the conventionally accepted realism of the camera."
Lorena Torres Martell
"William Mortensen has inspired me to create a world of darkness and occultism in my photographs. Every time I see the works of William Mortensen I am exhaled by his subjects, the handling of light and the beauty that each image conveys. It's incredible"
"I find Mortensen’s ability to create an atmosphere that leads his viewers to easily suspend their disbelief inspiring. His ingenuity toward traditional photography techniques stir up an inventiveness in my own work by pushing the boundaries of what traditional art making methods can be."
"William Mortensen is hands down my favorite photographer, a true creative genius."
Brittany Rose Luciani
"William Mortensen was truly a pioneer for early occult imagery, violating all tradition and embracing both light and darkness. By placing women in both dominant and submissive roles, Mortensen challenged the viewer to confront both power and submission, life and death. His work showcased women in power while keeping an underlying message of intrigue, fear, and mysticism."
For further information and press materials please contact
Stephen Romano at firstname.lastname@example.org
Dennis Dread and Tiffany Kenaley
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